A pair of Texas Law students won silver and bronze in this year’s Paper Chase Legal Writing Competition.
Lauren Bush ’24 earned second place and Sarah Chavey ’24 secured third place in the annual writing competition, which tests Texas law students’ ability to craft succinct responses to a fictional prompt based on current events. Bush and Chavey will each receive a trophy, as well as a cash prize of $1,500 and $500, respectively.
The Paper Chase is organized by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and Baylor Law School. TYLA members judge the anonymized entries, while Austin-based law firm FVF Law sponsors the competition’s prizes.
“The Paper Chase tests students’ readiness to practice law by having all students write a document typically used in law practice, based on the same prompt. This is unlike other competitions, which accept academic articles on topics of the students’ choosing,” says Kamela Bridges, who teaches legal writing at Texas Law and directs the David J. Beck Center for Legal Research, Writing, and Appellate Advocacy. “Practicing lawyers judge the Paper Chase, so students are evaluated by their future colleagues in the bar. We’re delighted that Texas lawyers recognize our students’ outstanding abilities.”
Tradition of Outstanding Performance
Competition organizers highlight Texas Law’s tradition of outstanding performance. “The University of Texas has certainly experienced much success in the history of our competition. Since 2017, UT has produced three first place winners and has placed at least one student in the top three every year,” says Matt Cordon, Baylor Law’s interim associate dean, director of legal writing, and A. Royce Stout Chair of Law. “This year was no different with two students placing second and third in our largest competition yet. With submissions from eight law schools in Texas—Baylor excluded—Lauren Bush and Sarah Chavey represented UT well once again.”
Texas Law students are thoroughly prepared for the competition, with participation in a rigorous 1L legal writing program involving multiple rounds of writing and feedback. “In addition, we offer numerous upper-division writing courses in areas such as litigation writing and transactional drafting. These courses prepare students for law practice, which is precisely what the Paper Chase evaluates,” says Bridges. She adds that several Texas Law winners, including Bush and Chavey, have also served as legal writing teaching assistants, informally known as “TQs” at Texas Law. (That abbreviation refers to “teaching quizmasters,” once the official designation for upperclassman students who earned the coveted job of teaching legal writing to 1Ls before the school had its own legal writing faculty.) “The experience of reading and critiquing other students’ work sharpens their already strong writing skills,” Bridges says. “We’re always pleased—but never surprised—to learn about our TQs’ successes.”
Paper Chase 2024
For this year’s competition, the prompt asked students to draft a motion to dismiss defending a Texas city against a retaliatory arrest suit. With no outside research required, the task solely focuses on participant’s writing skills and ability to analyze the issues—and address them succinctly within a seven-page limit.
Both Texas Law winners lauded the school for preparing them for the competition.
“So many of the experiences I have had at Texas Law aided my success in this competition, but the most influential were my 1L writing courses,” says Bush. She came to law school with a math background, and “was self-conscious about my writing skills, to say the least. However, I’m grateful to have had two great 1L writing professors who not only taught me the necessary skills but also helped me grow my confidence as a writer,” she says, crediting lecturers Shannon Peris and Matthew Murrell. “As such, placing second in this competition was very validating.” Bush cites her 1L writing courses as the “jumping-off point” for opportunities that further prepared her for the Paper Chase including becoming a TQ and an associate editor for the Texas Law Review—which both “involve reading, editing, and critiquing other people’s writing, which was extremely helpful in continuing to develop my writing skills.” After graduation, Bush will be joining Jackson Walker’s litigation group in Austin, where she was a summer associate for both her 1L and 2L years.
Her classmate echoes those comments. “Almost everything I know about legal writing I learned at Texas Law,” says Chavey, who notes that she lacked prior experience writing a motion to dismiss. “But my writing professors at UT have helped me develop skills that apply to all legal writing, such as concision, word choice, and legal analysis. It was fun transferring those ideas to a new format and getting my first motion to dismiss under my belt before I begin formal practice,” says Chavey, who was previously a journalist with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota and the San Antonio Express-News. Despite that background, Chavey says she knew very little about persuasive writing before starting at Texas Law. Following graduation, she will spend a year clerking for Judge Bobby Shepherd of the Eighth Circuit in El Dorado, Arkansas.